Tag Archives: transactional analysis

The manager as coach: working across generations

By Elisabeth Goodman, 25th April 2020

I’ve been enjoying being a student on the Post Graduate Certificate in Business and Personal Coaching with Barefoot Coaching and the University of Chester. The course has brought me new insights as well as very helpful reminders of the key principles and techniques that go into making us more effective coaches.

One such set of principles or techniques is encapsulated in Eric Berne’s (Berne 2016) Transactional Analysis.  It’s something I have been using for a while with people that I coach, and also in RiverRhee‘s training course on Assertiveness.  And it’s something that has huge relevance for managers working across generations, as well as for interactions between generations at home.


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We are at our best when we are making a conscious choice about our behaviour

Have you ever noticed, when you have been away from home and the other people who live there for a while – perhaps on holiday or on a work trip – that you come back a bit different, slightly changed?  Perhaps more confident, more assertive?

It’s certainly something I used to notice as a student when I returned home on holiday from university.  For a short while, I saw the dynamics that went on between the various members of my family more objectively, more clearly.  And I initiated and responded to conversations in a more open, more direct (in a respectful way), more resourceful way.  I felt like a better version of myself.  Then, after a while, I slipped back into my old patterns of behaviour that I had known as a child – this seemed easier if not nearly as positive. I was often glad to get back to university where I could  return to what felt like my better ‘adult’ self.

Our behaviour can influence the behaviour of others

As a parent, it can be difficult to recognise, respond to, and encourage that more ‘adult’ behaviour in our young people at home.  To listen, really listen to them.  To treat their ideas, opinions and feelings in the same way that we would treat those of say our adult friends, or our colleagues at work. It can also be difficult to retain that more ‘adult’ behaviour when we interact with our parents.

In the language of Transactional Analysis, if we act as an over-controlling ‘parent’ towards someone, someone that we manage, or a young adult at home, their automatic response can be to behave as a rebellious ‘child’.  If we act as a helpless ‘child’ towards our manager, or towards our parent (even if we are an adult) then we can bring out their overbearing ‘parent’ behaviour towards us.

[N.B. ‘Parent’ and ‘child’ behaviours do have their positive as well as their negative sides.  So ‘parent’ behaviour can be constructive or nurturing, as opposed to controlling or overbearing.  ‘Child’ behaviour can be creative or responsive, as opposed to disruptive or helpless.  I am putting a greater emphasis on the negative interpretations for the purpose of this blog.]

Is this something that you have noticed?

Imagine the added complexity of working across generations at work:

  • Do you project your ‘parent’ behaviour onto younger people who report to you?  What effect does that have?
  • Do you project your ‘child’ behaviour onto older people who manage you? And what effect does that have?

choosing a more open and collaborative behaviour

Interacting in ‘adult’ to ‘adult’ mode can promote openness and a more collaborative behaviour between all those involved.  But doing so takes awareness and effort.

As a manager, parent and coach, you can help yourself and those that you interact with to have a more open and collaborative interaction through:

  • Self-awareness during, and reflection after, your interactions with others
  • Maintaining an attitude of respect and ‘unconditional positive regard’ (Rogers 2012) towards those that you interact with
  • Listening, really listening to others’ ideas, opinions and feelings
  • Taking the time to express your own ideas, opinions and feelings to others in a way that shows that you value their attention and response
  • Keeping the lines of communication open between you: being prepared to ask “How could we work (or interact) better with each other?”


What have you noticed about the dynamics between generations at work or at home?

How much of this might be down to your own behaviour?

What could you change?



Barefoot Coaching (2020) Post Graduate Certificate in Business and Personal Coaching

Berne, E. (2016) Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy: A Systematic Individual and Social Psychology. Reprint.  Pickle Partners Publishing

Rogers, C. (2012) On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy. Reprint. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting., a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and one-to-one coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management, interpersonal and communication skills, and to deal with change.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Elisabeth is also a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and is working towards her PG Certification in Business and Personal Coaching with Barefoot Coaching and the University of Chester.

Difficult people are not necessarily being difficult!

By Elisabeth Goodman, 31st March, 2015

How to work with difficult people is a subject that many managers struggle with

How to work with “difficult” people is one of the topics Janet Burton and I explore in RiverRhee Consulting’s 3-day Introduction to Management course , and in our tailored in-house supervisor and line manager courses. I also previously referred to this subject in one of our newsletters on the subject of creating exceptional managers.

Elisabeth Goodman presenting the Introduction to Management course

How to work with “difficult” people is one of the most popular aspects of our courses, being one that many new and even more established managers can find quite challenging. I wonder whether it’s because the whole area of managing interpersonal relationships, dealing with conflict, emotional awareness and intelligence is something that is largely neglected in our educational system. We are so focused on academic achievement, that this essential aspect of work and indeed home life can be under-developed, unless other people in our lives have helped us to learn about it, or we have taken the initiative to explore it ourselves.

Difficult people may just be being different – we should take time to understand them

As I wrote in the newsletter, difficult people are not necessarily being difficult, but just different! Our different personalities, perspectives on, and beliefs in life will lead us to approach our work differently, communicate differently and generally act differently. At any moment in time, there will also be other circumstances happening in our lives that might be influencing how we think, feel and behave.

When faced with what seems to be a difficult situation or person, we would do well to step back and reflect on why they seem to be difficult, and to also step forward into the other person’s shoes. It may indeed be some aspect of our own behaviour that is creating or at least contributing to the situation.

We all make assumptions and try to mind read. One of the most obvious solutions, but also the one a lot of people will avoid, is to actually have an open conversation with the person concerned, to understand their perspective as well as communicate our own. Several of the managers we’ve worked with have dared to have those conversations as a result of what they’ve learnt on our courses and have been greatly relieved by the outcome.

Other strategies and tools to help us understand “difficult” people

There are various other strategies at our disposal, such as active listening, coaching and assertiveness that can help us to better understand what is leading to people being “difficult” as well as helping us to influence any associated behaviours and situations in a positive and constructive way.

We use various psychometric tools in our training ranging from Honey and Mumford’s Learning Styles, to NLP representational (or communication) styles, Belbin’s Team Roles and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator). These can be very illuminating in terms of understanding our different perspectives and approaches to life and work.

I’m in the process of reading “Working Together”[1], a book about transactional analysis (TA) in the workplace. TA, and the “OK corral”[2] originated with Eric Berne in the 1970s. It’s about understanding our beliefs about ourselves and how we believe others view us – often something we have inherited from childhood – and how that influences our behaviour and interaction with others. It can lead to individuals being generally passive or aggressive rather than assertive in their behaviour, or to responding passively or aggressively in certain situations.

The OK Corral - based on the work of Eric Berne

The OK Corral – based on the work of Eric Berne

In an organisational setting, the nature of the “OK” dynamic between individuals can influence the dynamics within teams and make a difference between a dysfunctional team and one that thrives on open discussion and attains high performance. The open and positive behaviour of senior and middle managers can make a difference between engaged and ‘empowered’ individuals in what Wickens (1995)[3] calls an “ascendant” organisation, and one where people are alienated, acting in an anarchic way, or where there is total apathy.

In conclusion – it’s worth spending the time to understand people, to create a more positive working relationship

As one of my own exceptional managers once told me, the work of a manager can be as much as 80% about people, and only 20% about tasks. If people are being “difficult” we should take the time to understand why they appear to be so. The root cause may be something that we can do something about or otherwise influence.

As Mountain and Davidson point out: people working together don’t have to like each other to still be able to work effectively together. In my own experience, better understanding can lead to something that is more akin to liking (if that was not there already), and certainly to a more positive working relationship.

[1] Mountain, A. and Davidson, C. (2015) Working Together. Organizational Transactional Analysis and Business Performance. Farnham, England, Gower

[2] Eric Berne’s 4-box matrix matches the various combinations of “I am OK”, “I am not OK” and “You are OK”, “You are not OK”. The “healthy position” being “I am OK, You are OK”.

[3] Wickens, P. (1995). The Ascendant Organization. Basingstoke, England, MacMillan Business


Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams and their managers to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. (We use coaching, training, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting just over 5 years ago, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis. 

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  She is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals) and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads the Capabilities & Methods pillar for the Enabling Change SIG.